Free education to cost threefold

May 08, 2018

The Kathmandu Post, 08 May 2018

The government needs to ensure three times the funds currently allocated in order to guarantee constitutional rights of children to compulsory and free school education.

Article 31 (2) of the constitution says every citizen has the right to compulsory and free education up to the basic level (Grade 8) and free education up to the secondary level (Grade 12). The government requires an Act to enforce the provision by October 19 irrespective of the school a child goes to. Currently some 7.4 million students are studying in around 34,000 schools across the country.

A study carried out by researcher Binay Kumar Kushiyat, professor at Tribhuvan University, for the National Campaign for Education Nepal, an umbrella body of more than three dozen non-government agencies working in the education sector, shows that Rs197.84 billion is required for the school sector annually to ensure the constitutional rights. Currently, the sector receives Rs71.89 billion.

The government needs to inject an additional Rs125 billion but the Finance Ministry has set a ceiling of Rs127 billion for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Of this only Rs80 billion is for school education.

At present, the government meets the cost of teachers, textbooks and some scholarships for the marginalised community. To meet the constitutional requirement, there should be free stationery, insurance, uniform and even meal free for the students. According to Kushiyat, the per capita cost will then increase to Rs32,400 annually, up from Rs9,839 at the moment.

“There is an urgent need to increase the budget for education,” he said, presenting the report in the Capital on Monday. As per the commitment made by the government in international forums, the education budget should be at least 20 percent of the total national spending or close to 6 percent of the gross domestic product. Currently, the share of education budget hovers around 10 percent.

“We are currently working on the Compulsory and Free Education Act draft,” said Hari Lamsal, joint-secretary at the Education Ministry, adding that education can only be free when total schooling expenses for families from below the poverty line are paid for by the state.

According to records, the net enrolment rate stands at 97 percent.